Press Release: 29 March 2023



On 29 March 2023, lawyers will publicly mark their concern that the climate crisis poses an existential risk to humanity and the rule of law. As such, as a matter of conscience, they will withdraw their legal services from (1) new fossil fuel projects and (2) criminal or civil action against peaceful climate protesters.

So far, over 140 lawyers have signed the Declaration of Conscience [1].

They will launch the Declaration at a demonstration led by Anouchka Grose [2] at 1230pm outside the Royal Courts of Justice in the heart of legal London.

The Declaration is prompted by the legal profession’s service of the fossil fuel industry. Between 2017 and 2022 the legal sector globally supported at least $1.62 trillion worth of transactions for the fossil fuel industry [3], and the City of London, where many top law firms and their clients are based, supports at least 15% of global emissions [4].

This is despite the scientific consensus that breaching the 1.5°C temperature limit established by the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in 2015 will cause mass loss of life and catastrophic harm to the health of millions of human beings and animals. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) ‘final warning’ report of 20 March 2023 emphasised that there is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all and that new fossil fuel supply projects would be inconsistent with the 1.5 ̊C global temperature limit [5].

The World Health Organisation has stated that climate crisis is the biggest single health threat facing humanity [6]. The UK Government has already said: “the floods and fires we have seen around the world this year will get more frequent and more fierce, crops will be more likely to fail, and sea levels will rise driving mass migration as millions are forced from their homes. Above 1.5°C we risk reaching climatic tipping points like the melting of arctic permafrost – releasing millennia of stored greenhouse gases – meaning we could lose control of our climate for good.” [7].

At the same time, peaceful climate protestors drawing attention to the crisis have effectively been silenced by being criminalised. In some trials they have been prevented from telling juries their reasons for protesting. Those who felt compelled to explain these reasons have received sentences of up to 8 weeks for contempt of court [8].

The signatories to the Declaration include prominent lawyers from the United Kingdom and around the world, including many from countries in the Global South who will face the worst impacts of the climate crisis, such as South Africa, Australia, Mexico, Guyana and the Philippines. The signatories include individuals at all stages of their careers, 7 King’s Counsel, solicitors and barristers, legal academics and students, patent attorneys, paralegals and coordinators of global NGOs, all committed to seeing imminent change in the legal industry [9].

Melinda Janki, Attorney-at-Law (Guyana) and winner of the 2023 Commonwealth Lawyers Association LexisNexis Rule of Law Award, said: “I beg my legal colleagues to join me and other lawyers who are on the frontline fighting to uphold the rule of law and protect our countries and planet from the killing effects of fossil fuels. Please take a stand and do not be complicit in ecocide and the inevitable destruction of human lives.”

Jodie Blackstock, barrister, said: “As a barrister committed to access to justice throughout my career, I have signed the Declaration because humanity has reached a point from which there is no return. Colleagues brokering these deals need to be aware of the consequences. The Rule of Law promotes and protects the rights of the marginalised. It is subverted when those causing the harm go unchallenged but those raising the alarm are criminalised.”

Yves Hayaux du Tilly, Mexican lawyer, partner at Nader, Hayaux & Goebel and signatory to the Declaration, said: “We cannot reverse the injustice, pain and suffering that has resulted from our horrendous greed and arrogance; however, as members of the legal profession, we can be part of a new beginning. We must challenge well established systems of thought imperilling the very existence of life, dream and create a path to new beginnings, in our lives, profession, communities and in our world.”

Notes to Editors

[1] The Declaration can be found here: group call themselves ‘Lawyers are Responsible’ to mark the role lawyers play in contributing to global emissions but also the potential role lawyers have in providing solutions.
[2] Anouchka Grose is a Lacanian psychoanalyst and writer
[3] Law Students for Climate Accountability (LSCA) 2022 Scorecard Press Release, whose co- founder, Tim Hirschel-Burns, is one of the signatories to the Declaration of Conscience

[4] The Carbon Tracker Initiative
[7] HM Government Net Zero Strategy (2021)
Note that this Strategy was ruled unlawful by the High Court in 2022 for failing to properly address carbon emissions reductions,
[8] Three non-violent climate protestors have already been imprisoned for contempt of
court for breaching the orders of Judge Silas Reid at Inner London Crown Court
[9] Signatories include Sir Geoffrey Bindman KC, Aoife Fleming (Legal Coordinator for World’s Youth for Climate Justice), Leslie Thomas KC, Farhana Yamin, Imran Khan KC, Jolyon Maugham KC of the Good Law Project, Tessa Khan of Uplift, Fiona McLeod KC, Melinda Janki and John Carr OBE.